On July 4, two hundred thirty four years ago, influential members of the Continental Congress, affectionately referred to as our founding fathers, were hard at work pursuing the arduous process task of declaring independence from the abusive, arrogant and autocratic governance of King George III.
What I find strikingly poignant was how painful this ordeal was for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence was subjected to more than 80 changes during the period that the Continental Congress deliberated. Most of the changes were minor and served to enhance Jefferson’s work.
One section that didn’t survive the cutting room floor hurt him significantly though. Jefferson wanted to include a section that addressed the pain of parting from the British Crown. “After all, the Brits were our friends, we were leaving them, we might have been a free and great people together,” he lamented. The Congress however, was not in a conciliatory mood. The abrupt ending of old ties with England was not on their mind; their focus was on the denunciation of high-handed treatment.
We all know “the rest of the story.” We handed the Crown their heads in the Revolutionary War. They came back at us again in 1812, burning the White House and the Capitol in the process, but were eventually vanquished in New Orleans, never again to return to American soil as an army.
I believe Jefferson was troubled by the act of burning one’s bridges. I believe that in spite of the waging of two substantial wars on his watch, he perceived that the United States of America and Great Britain would eventually rekindle their relationship. How right he was, and how beneficial for us (World War II immediately comes to mind.)
Relationships that damage us, cause irreparable harm, or serve as an ongoing threat to our well-being should end, and stay that way. But these should be in the minority, because with ardent dedication to damage control and the contributions of father time, allies that became enemies can become allies again. We should all cherish the desire to grow old together in harmony.
Happy 234th Independence Day.